Modernising the meat export regulatory system

Critical government and industry action to modernise the Australian export meat inspection and regulatory system is underway following the $328 million Busting Congestion for Agricultural Exporters measure announced by the Australian Government as part of the 2020/21 Budget.

The Busting Congestion for Agricultural Exporters package will fund reforms for Australian agricultural sectors, including the meat processing sector, to reduce unnecessary red tape, get products to export markets faster and support jobs in rural and remote Australia.

The package, worth more than $328.4 million over four years from 2020-21, will:

  • Support Australia’s agriculture industry to grow towards a $100 billion in farm gate returns by 2030 (from $61 billion currently).
  • Maintain and strengthen existing preferential access to overseas markets.
  • Support economic recovery, provide jobs in rural, regional and remote Australia; support government efforts in response to COVID-19, bushfires and drought; and
  • Provide an immediate freeze on increases in fees and charges, to assist exporters with the impacts of COVID-19, with stepped increases to be spread over 4 years consistent with the government’s cost recovery policy.

The measures announced in the budget will support the development of a more competitive meat industry by bolstering Australia’s reputation as a provider of high-quality safe meat, underpinned by a robust regulatory system.

To deliver strong outcomes for the export meat processing sector, a package of modernisation proposals has been developed in conjunction with, and strongly supported by, industry leaders – including senior representatives of the Australian Meat Industry Council (AMIC) and other export meat processing establishments.

David Hazlehurst, deputy secretary of the Department’s Agriculture Trade Group, said the modernisation of the export meat sector will be the most comprehensive undertaken since the 2011 Australian Export Meat Inspection System (AEMIS) reforms.

“The package will modernise Australia’s regulatory approach, making our systems best practice and enabling the department, in its role as the agricultural export regulator, undertake its assurance more efficiently,” Hazlehurst said.

Major modernisation proposals include:
The Digital Services to Take Farmers to Markets measures include an investment of $222.2 million to modernise Australia’s agricultural export systems by reducing red-tape and improving regulation and service delivery for our producers and exporters.  Practically, this measure will transition departmental export systems online and provide a single portal for transactions between exporters and Government, streamlining processes for exporters and helping them experience faster and more cost‑effective services, while continuing to meet trading partners’ requirements.

The Building a More Competitive Meat Industry measure embeds modernisation activities that will keep Australia’s export systems world leading and introduces new regulatory assurance tools that reward high levels of conformance and targets any areas of poor compliance.  The measure also, introduces flexible assurance methods, including smarter technology, to ensure the Australian meat industry maintains and expands its global position as the number one supplier of choice.

Key modernisation proposals include:

  • A digital modernisation roadmap investing in technology and identifying opportunities to improve regulatory activities such as developing electronic processes to replace paper-based forms, bringing in ‘smart’ technologies for agreed verification activities and doing away with manual processes and outdated technologies to bring in administrative efficiency;
  • A commitment from industry leaders to the full implementation of the 2011 Australian Authorised Officer (AAO) AEMIS reforms from March 2021, supported by a six-month transition timeframe.   Practically this means that department will no longer provide Food Safety Meat Inspectors (FSMAs) where the function could otherwise be provided through the use of Australian Government Authorised Officers (AAOs). Instead the department will only continue to provide a government veterinarian and a FSMA who will undertake the final disposition of product at each export meat establishment in accordance with market access requirements.
  • Post-mortem inspection and disposition modernisation activities to align modern food safety science and our meat standards;
  • The ongoing implementation of a formal, transparent market access prioritisation framework;
  • With a focus on high performing quality systems, transitioning export establishments to six monthly audits with annual audits introduced for highly compliant processing establishments that have capacity to provide real time and quality data assurance to the department; and,
  • Improvements to systems and processes, such as streamlined approval variations for Approved Arrangements, and assessing new technologies, such as smart-glasses, other virtual technologies and enhanced processing equipment, for introduction at export meat processing establishments in a simplified and more timely way.

Terry Nolan, AMIC’s National Processor Council chair said the Australian export meat sector understood the vital role it plays in achieving our joint aim of $100 billion in farm gate returns by 2030.

“A key pillar of this is building exports – and our sector plays a key role in Australia’s overall agricultural export growth,” Nolan said.

“Knowing that we can continue to deliver high-quality and safe meat products to a global market is paramount.  It’s also incredibly important that we work with government to make sure that our regulatory system continues to be contemporary, fit for purpose and robust.

“We are proud to play our part in driving modernisation for the benefit of the whole agricultural sector.”